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2017 Eastern Hemisphere Championship
May 30  - June 4, 2017
Viareggio, Italy


2017 Western Hemisphere Championship
June 13 - 18, 2017
Cleveland, Ohio USA



2017 North American Championship
September 5-10, 2017
Marblehead, MA USA

Newest Star Number

8522

 

 

1946 World Championship - Regatta Report


1946 World's Championshi
p - Havana
Regatta Results

Report from the 1947 Star Class Log with Introductory remarks from Starlights. Another report from
Forty Years Among the Stars - by George W. Elder - is also avilable.

Note: This report has been scanned in by Ed Sprague. For a collection of Worlds' reports plus photographs contact Ed Sprague ( ejspraguejr@mac.com ) to order his book "The San Diego Bay Star Fleet".

Twenty-eight skippers, at least half of them already internationally known, assembled with their crews from seven different countries to take part in the Star Class World's Championship at Havana, Cuba, during the last week of November, 1946. Being the first post-war World's Championship, this series marked the return to the real thing, where competing entries brought and sailed their own boats. Despite many misgivings that some of the boats would not get to Cuba in time because of the various strikes which had been tying up shipping during the fall, they all arrived, and were taken to the boathouse of the Havana Yacht Club, where their excellent condition gave evidence of considerable care on the part of Commodore Posso, Charlie de Cardenas, and the service personnel of the Club who regarded the boats as thoroughbreds for which nothing was too good. Any skipper who wanted his boat launched had only to indicate his desire, and half a dozen willing hands would be pushing other trailer-cradled boats out of the way to work his boat toward the electric hoist, where she would be lowered carefully and dependably into the Almendares River.

The bridges to the outer harbor were raised as required from 11 to 11: 30 A.M. The launches towed long strings of boats to the outside moorings during this interval, and were standing by ready to tow them back again between 4 and 4:30 when the bridges were up once more. Back at the dock, each boat was placed on its own trailer without a word from the owner, cleaned, hosed with fresh water, and secured for the night. It was probably the best conditioned bunch of sailing yachts ever assembled, and everyone who had anything to do with their care did his best to keep them so.

As the opening of the series approached, it looked as if the entry from Brazil would not arrive. The Simoes had left Rio de Janeiro six weeks earlier, with their boat Toro, on a freighter. The ship ran into bad weather, became short of fuel, and had to put in at Jamaica. The Cuban hosts were just completing arrangements to send a plane after the skipper and crew, so that they at least could get to the series ever if their Star could not, when word came that the ship would reach Havana in time. It did?the very day before the series began. By a superhuman effort of all concerned, it was made ready only to be dismasted the first day, and again the second. Such perseverance surely ill deserved so cruel a reward.

Finally the long awaited day arrived, Monday, November 25th, on the morning of which all illusions of a prospective drifting match were shattered by the appearance of whitecaps, easily visible from the hotel windows, whipped up by a wind which continued to increase as race time approached. The predictions of tough conditions were to be substantiated; it looked as if sailing would be hardly pleasurable. Contestants were instructed not to hoist sail until a signal was given by the committee boat, which was to remain in the harbor until shortly before race time. When the signal was made, the strength of the wind could be felt during sail hoisting operations, although the boats were still in the comparative shelter of the harbor. Boats jockeyed about nervously at a sharp angle of heel before a few ventured outside: no one wanted the distinction of being the first to break down. Finally all were under way, stamping out to the line area.

The shoreline at Havana runs approximately east and west, and the wind this day (and for the next three races also) was blowing from slightly east of northeast. This meant that in order to cross the line on the starboard tack it was necessary to approach it from the beach. Theoretically a possible maneuver, actually it was difficult to do this because the inner end of the line was so very near the breakers. The lack of shoal water forced the line itself to be short too: just outside the committee boat the bottom fell away in a great cliff.

First Race
The boats flew wildly back and forth, waiting for the start, which would be welcome, for then one could settle down to business. In the present constricted area, eternal vigilance was the rule. The blue signal had been up four minutes, and the boats were inshore as far as they dared go for the start of a windward-leeward course, the only possible one under the inherent limitations of the situation. And then the gun.

There was no barging, and not too much crowding. The aim was to get over the line without fouling or being fouled, and let the race begin from that point.

Nevertheless there were two recalls, Chuckle and Lorber's Scout being over-eager. As the boats filled away, skippers and crews went topside and the initial struggle for the highest honor in the Star Class - some say in the entire yachting world - was on.
Then suddenly, out of nowhere, less than 100 yards from the starting line appeared a powerboat, its engines in reverse, backing slowly toward the racing craft. Instead of moving out of the way, it kept coming closer. (It was later discovered that the boat was out of control, its clutches being stuck in reverse.) With almost everyone on the starboard tack and this large obstruction directly on the course, there was simply no place to go. Some skippers quickly came over on to the port tack, wiped off, and escaped without collision but with a definite loss of position. Two Stars could not avoid contact with the powerboat.

This hazard surmounted, the race continued up the first weather leg. There was no anemometer recording; but the wind was high, and the seas were very high, and the water was very salty. As the spray hit one's eyes it hurt and blinded, and when the eyes were opened again the liquid salt hit them again. Most of the boats stood out on the starboard tack to gain the benefit of the eastward running Gulf Stream. Barney Lehman showed that he had lost none of his 1941 touch by leading the fleet around the first mark. But a few minutes later he was seen to luff hard and sag along with all sails flapping. Trouble! Tangs had pulled off the mast, and it was impossible to go on. A heartbreaking time to withdraw, but Lehman had no choice.

Scout V was not the only boat in difficulty. Simoes' Toro lost her mast shortly after the start, and altogether there were ten breakdowns, a staggering total for a championship fleet of the caliber of this one.

Scout V was closely pursued around the first mark by Gem II, sailed by Durward Knowles and Bert Kelly from Nassau, and then by Skip and Mary Etchells' Shillalah. When Scout V dropped out, Shillalah closed on Gem but was unable to catch her. The second time upwind Gem out a little more lead, but on the last run home Shillalah finally caught and passed the Nassau entry a scant hundred yards from the finish. Wench II, sailed by George Fleitz and Walter Krug from Los Harbor, who were destined to win the series, finished third, but more than three minutes behind the two leaders, a long distance under those fast conditions. Then came White's Pagan, which had had her share of excitement when Gordon Holcombe fell overboard while attempting to set the whisker pole. He grabbed a jib sheet as he went, and managed to drag himself back aboard.

Second Race
With renewed determination and in many cases rigging, and wit spirits rejuvenated by the tremendous party at the Miramar Yacht Club on the evening of the first day, the contestants tightened their belts and sailed out into similar conditions the second day. The seas were the same only more so. The wind was reported as 28 to 35 miles, which, in the open ocean, is no summer zephyr. Toro was dismasted before the race began. At the start the leaders were bunched, but the others straggled across the line in their own good time, more concerned with staying in one piece than anything else. Durward Knowles, sailing in his first World's Championship series, took the lead five minutes after the start and was never headed. At the first mark De Cardenas' Kurush III, the local white hope was second, with Lehman third in Scout V. Then came a group - seven boats so closely bunched that it was impossible to define a precise order. Eyewitness accounts give Shillalah's position as anywhere from fourth to tenth; wherever she was, Etchells did a lot of gaining off the wind to round the next mark second only to Gem. Kurush was third.

The second time up, Gem widened out while Shillalah dropped back to fourth. Kurush was second, and Wench moved into third spot. Skip and Mary Etchells picked them off again down the wind to finish second Fleitz and De Cardenas also changing places. Lehman was fifth.

Wednesday, a Cuban national holiday', was rest day. And while the contestants are relaxing and putting their boats back together again for the remaining three races, let us take the opportunity to analyze in further detail some aspects of this remarkable series.
Gem and Shillalah were of course tied for first at this point, each with a daily first and a second. And although Wench had two thirds to her credit, and had piled up a score that might already have put her in the lead under other circumstances, she was still regarded mainly as a threat, the outstanding performance of the other two having attracted a good deal of attention to date. To accomplish her wins, Gem used an exceedingly flat, old, heavy English Ratsey mainsail and carried her mast with an extreme rake aft. The boat went very fast to windward with this combination in the hard going. Shillalah, on the other hand, sailed with a brand new medium cut main, much bigger than Knowles', which accounts in part for Shillalah's remarkable off-wind performance where Knowles was handicapped by lack of area. This was also perhaps a partial cause of Etchells' slump of the last three days: the new sail began to lose shape badly under the strain. Gem continued to use the same "old faithful," and it is riot clear why she placed seventh in the third and fourth races, except that seventh in such a fleet of experts is by no means a poor showing. That Gem was no flash in the pan was demonstrated the following month when she won the Orange Bowl Regatta at Miami with two firsts and a second.

It has been mentioned that it was possible to set only windward leeward courses. This condition prevailed for the first four races, and was due to the great depth of water offshore. There was no choice but to send the fleet up the coast and back, twice around. The Gulf Stream added another unique limitation: offshore a three-knot current ran against the wind, while inshore it was not so strong (although even there it ran swiftly enough to swing the committee boat, a Navy Sub-Chaser, stern to against 30 knots of wind.) This meant that there was only one tack to take. It was practically mandatory to stay on the starboard tack until the mark could be fetched, standing out to take maximum advantage of the Stream. Then a long port board to the weather mark, pay off around it, and the same thing in reverse off the wind. Here, the current being unfavorable, the idea was to reach in almost to the beach, jibe, and run down the shore against the slackest current. A lot of distance over the bottom was added to the course by this technique, but it was the only thing to do, as many discovered the hard way. Near the end of the series Harold Halsted, for one, tried squaring off at the weather mark and heading directly for the finish. He only tried it once. Although at first it looked as if Chuckle were gaining, the tables were turned when the other boats, sailing the accepted inshore course, began to get the benefit of the slacker water. Chuckle lost several places by the experiment.

It is all very well to say casually that the boats jibed and ran down the shore. Doing it was another matter. It paid big dividends to get almost into the breakers before jibing, which left no time to await a lull in the wind once you got there. It was either jibe now or up on the seawall. So you got her over somehow, lull or no lull. The fact that no one piled up on the beach, either before the start or during a race, was ample proof of an exceptionally able collection of small boat handlers. Add to the hazard the fact that all contestants were in constant fear that their tiller fittings would let go in a moment of crisis, and you will understand that the leeward legs, though thrilling, were hardly restful. Etchells stated that he would not have believed a Star capable of such prolonged high speed as was attained planing down some of the immense waves. On one or two occasions he thought his boat got going so fast, with so much wind pressure against the sail to sustain this speed, that she continued to plane up the face of the next wave, over the top, and down again without ever getting off the plane.

But rest day is over, and 'we must return to the series.

Third Race
Thanksgiving Day dawned bright and windy. Those who, on Tuesday, had said it couldn't be any worse, on Thursday admitted that, well, it might be. It was. George Fleitz called it the roughest day he had ever seen small yachts go out in; but nevertheless he won the race and the Vanderveer Trophy (high point score for the first three days) and immediately became the series favorite, remaining so to the end. The first four boats across the finish line all broke the course record for a windward leeward course, set at 1:40:21 by Bill Inslee in 1925. Fleitz beat it by almost three minutes. But whereas the old record had stood for 21 years, the new one was to stand for just one day.

Wench turned the first mark about a length clear ahead of Barney Lehman in Scout V, closely followed by Gus Lorber's Scout, the New Orleans entry. This order remained unchanged to leeward; but as they hauled on the wind again for the second windward thrash, something happened to Lehman's rigging and the mast nearly went overboard. Miraculously, he got it readjusted and straightened up again, dropping only one position, to Lorber. Wench widened out to a fine lead estimated at 200 yards by the time the second weather mark was reached, with Scout V another 100 Yards astern of Scout. These positions held to the finish, with Lippincott's Blue Star II fourth and the Portuguese Capucho II fifth.

Harry Nye made his second consecutive spectacular finish in Pilot. Tuesday Pilot was dismasted about a mile from the finish line; Nye continued, under as much sail as he could drape onto the lower third of the mast, which was still standing, and even at that beat three boats. On Thursday things again went adrift in the rigging, and this time, although the mast stayed in the boat, Pilot finished with the entire rig swaying and swinging about like a mad dervish. Some time during this act Stanley Fahlstrom fell overboard, which was not surprising, but he pulled himself back aboard, only slightly lacerated by a sheet in which he had become entangled. They finished eleventh.

There was the usual quota of broken and lost whisker poles, parted lines and collapsed tiller fittings. Dan Morrell broke a brand new 5/16" nylon jib sheet right in the middle, where there was no evidence of chafing or wear. On one occasion, either in this race or in one of the earlier ones (they all ran together in a sort of confused blur after a while, and it was hard to remember exactly what happened on which days,) Bob Ziegler was riding his customary perch on the high side of Scout V when suddenly the boat was hit by a tremendous comber. He was picked up bodily by the wave and thrown against the main boom, falling from there into the cockpit - out cold. He soon recovered consciousness and was able to continue the race. Hodges and McCrillis, from Lake Sunapee, were so knocked about on the Nashira that they went to a doctor to have their aching ribs taped. The doctor's comment was, "You fellows shouldn't get into fights like that." He does not believe to this day that they could have acquired all those bruises just sailing.

The Spanish entry, Antonio de Zulueta, who had flown across the Atlantic and bought a boat in Cuba for the series, sailed the third race under rather extraordinary conditions. It is probably the first time that a Star has been sailed in a World's Championship, or perhaps in any race with a crew who could not understand a word the skipper was saying an vice versa. When Señor Zulueta's regular crew, his wife, became ill and could not sail, a Canadian visitor volunteered, and it happened that there was no language, which they both spoke. But they managed it, much the amusement of many assistants who tutored them in sign language the night before. Ingenious signals were devised; for instance, when the skipper wanted the whisker pole set, he stroked his chin. The record shows Conan Berri disabled in this race. Could it be that the signals got crossed


Escape
Nashira of Lake Sunapee at the 1946 World's in Havana.
Willard Hodges' crew John McCrillis broke some ribs from the impact of the boat coming off the wave.

Fourth Race
The wind on Friday was lighter, blowing about 15 knots from the same northeasterly direction?no drifter, of course, but it was a relief to have comparatively smoother seas. The sky was overcast and intermittent rain fell. A few minutes before the start, Harold Halsted decided that he had the wrong mainsail on, and executed a quick change. Wishing of course to remain near the starting line, he lowered the main when Chuckle was just to windward of the line area and then tried to keep the jib drawing and the boat sailing before the wind until the new main was ready to hoist. It is an indication of the strength of the current that during the six or eight minutes in which Chuckle was heading downwind under jib alone, she drifted so far upwind that she was late for the start. Paul Smart's Melody hit the starting buoy and withdrew, although there was considerable room for doubt whether she was really in the wrong. Going up the first windward leg, on the usual long starboard board out sea, Joseph Smyth, sailing with a laminated 17?piece mast in Viking II suddenly became the unfortunate possessor of a 34?piece mast. Even the wizard Charlie de Cardenas could not keep on conjuring up spare masts forever, and since the supply had at last run out, both this Viking and the Portuguese one were unable to sail in the last race. Barney Lehman again came to grief, this time when his starboard chain plates pulled their fastenings out of the side of the hull. Since Scout V's shrouds were led through the deck, the whole arrangement, turnbuckles and all, ripped their way up through the covering board, leaving what was best described as a letter box slot at the edge of the deck.
Fleitz and Krug, now very much in the limelight, took Wench around the first mark in the lead, a couple of lengths ahead of Lippincott and Levin in Blue Star. Nye's Pilot followed a like distance astern. On the run back, Blue Star and Pilot overhauled Wench, rounding the lee mark in that, order with San Francisco's Pagan fourth. This order remained unchanged, for the rest of the race, except that Nye passed Lippincott on the final run to win the race and break yesterday's course record, the new one being four seconds better at 1: 37:29. Again the first four boats beat the 1925 record. Fifth to finish was Dole's Folly from Hawaii. Although attention was now focused on a different group, Gem and Shillalah still retained their second and third series positions. Wench had a commanding lead of nine points.
The setting of the new course records was due to several contributing causes, among them being the strong current set to windward, which materially shortened the weather legs, and the big waves that allowed the boats to attain and hold fantastic speeds off the wind. The breaking of the old record is the more decisive because Nye and the others had no wind?shift to help them, as did Inslee on the Sound in 1925. At Havana it was true windward? leeward all the way.

Fifth Race
Saturday, the final day of the series, the wind was light and flukey offshore for a change. It did not help the so?called light weather skipper very much though; everyone had moved so many things so many times in the course of effecting repairs, shipping new masts and attempting to tune boats for the heavy stuff that when the light going arrived at last they were all befuddled trying to un?tune again.
The course was a triangle, three times around. In order to provide this variety without attempting to anchor an outer mark in half a mile of water, the course was laid out so that the weather leg took the boats in the mouth of Havana Harbor, under historic Morro Castle.
The start was ragged; perhaps because nobody had any functioning stopwatches left after the four?day drenching they had taken. It was relief to sail a race in which the pump and bucket could be laid aside, but it was a wind?hunt, never the most satisfactory of races. Bob Lippincott, who deserves high praise for his steadily improving performance through the week, topped it off by collecting first place. His tally for the five races in order was 14th, 8th, 4th, 2nd and 1st. Since the last three races counted for the handsome Ambassador Henry Norweb Trophy, put up by the U. S. Ambassador to Cuba for those who had had tough breaks on the first two days, this new prize was well earned by Lippincott. He stood fourth in the final score for the championship.
Scout V, Pagan and Pilot each threatened Blue Star from time to time during the last race, but could not pass her. Chuckle fouled the first mark and withdrew. Western Long Island Sound's hopes, which had bee wilting since Thursday, went into the ash can when Shillalah's headstay brushed against the end of Fifinella's boom and Etchells withdrew.
Fleitz brought Wench in fourth, completing an unwaveringly consistent record of a first, three thirds and a fourth for an average of slightly better than third, to win his second Gold Star hands down. Pagan took to second in the race and in the series. Pilot finished third today, but Nassau Gem II captured series third by finishing this race in eighth spot. This was certainly not enough wind to suit Knowles' flat sails on the last day.
Champions George Fleitz and Walter Krug had a enough time as they got ashore, but they probably didn't care much. To begin with they were tossed overboard in the traditional manner by the other contestants. Then later, after the presentation of prizes at the magnificent final banquet at the Havana Yacht Club, they were placed on a 14?foot high throne called the Sea?Wolf Chair, where they had to drink Bumbas, a quaint Cuban custom which seems to hinge on the theory that the more you drink, the more you can hold.
The scale of this banquet and the many other sumptuous entertainments provided by the Cuban hosts can only be hinted at. Typical of the lavishness of the occasion was the fact that the bars were wide open; as much of anything as you and all your party could consume was on the house, night after night. To Commodore Rafael Posso and his able assistants go the thanks of all who attended the series for engineering the arrangements of an unforgettable week ashore.
The International Race Committee, which did a smooth job of running the races under trying conditions, consisted of George Elder, Chairman; Rafael Posso, Robert Cameron, Homer Clark, Donald Bergman, Manuel Rasco, Jr. and Enrique Gamba. Course and mark officials, who gave generously of their time and received little credit, were Mario M. Bustamante, Jose F. Aguirre, Antonio Botet, Manuel L. Rami, Adolfo Ovies, Manuel F. Valle and Dr. William Curry.


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